December 31, 2005

That was the year that was

(image from Belgrade's Radio B-92, by way of East Ethnia)

P.D.'s under fire in 2005

Maybe in your jurisdiction, but definitely in Lake County, California -
Public defenders office under fire in 2005:

Normally when defense attorneys are successful, it's the people they represent who win acquittal. But in Lake County in the year just concluding it was the defense attorney, himself, who got a "second chance."

It happened this way. In a hail of controversy generated by a negative Grand Jury report over the county's public defender system, the Board of Supervisors terminated the contract of the Indigent Representation Administration (IRA) for which attorney Steven Carter was a co-principal.

Then, not much more than a month later, the board concluded a request for proposal (RFP) competitive bidding process that attracted six proposals by awarding a new contract to the newly created firm of Lake Legal Defense Services Inc. sole principal Steven Carter. In essence, it meant that the company that Carter had just created succeeded the one that he and co-owner Erik Bruce had just dismantled...

Off-topic: the Idahoan and the anti-teacher bully

I wanted to pass along this post in honor of a fine lawyer I once hired, a Declo High School grad who truly knew his Constitution. Here is Tara Rowe, another Idahoan, who as a high school student took a public stand against a local blowhard and public-schools-basher - "The Cowboy, Cassia County, & The Constitution" :

The motivation behind Mr. Bell's question is pretty simple--he despises teachers. Having lived in Cassia County for a good chunk of my life, Zeb Bell's radio show was nothing new to me. I had listened several times over the years as he ripped apart teachers for what they were teaching in the classroom and for what they were not. I had listened for years to a man dead set on running the reputation of public education into the ground and frankly, I had had enough...

It reminds me of the boastful small-mindedness that keeps rural Idaho under-educated and under-prosperous, and of the handful of local freedom fighters who kick against that attitude. Kudos to Ms. Rowe for staying on and fighting back.

As for myself and my family, we bailed out at exactly this time last year. My son was in a fine Catholic school back in the Magic Valley. Now here in the South Sound he's in an amazing top-of-the-tests public school, a bit crowded to be sure, but crowded with kids whose families are fully invested in educational success. I'm glad that my boy will never have cause to write a letter to the editor like Ms. Rowe's.

December 29, 2005

P.D. went down to Georgia

P. Paladin re-wrote this song in honor of Jason, who's heading to GA to be a P.D.:

Public defender went to Georgia
He was looking for a soul to free
And he was in a bind
‘Cause he was way behind
And was willing to make a plea...

Well, it's something. Paladin says that this song was created with Audacity - Audacity, who knew?

Bonus links go to videos - original and extra-crispy - for those deprived city-slickers unacquainted with the tune's majesty and power, then some review questions for the over-educated, e.g., question # 8: If the Devil went down to Georgia 'cause he was looking for a soul to steal, why does he arrange what appears to be an honest competition?

NC: he's finished

Durham public defender resigns after allegations:

A week after being suspended for alleged sexual harassment of an employee, Durham Public Defender Bob Brown resigned Wednesday. Brown's resignation follows a filing by Danielle Bruno, an assistant public defender who stated that Brown pushed her for a personal relationship, sometimes suggesting that her job was tied to her relationship with Brown...

Looking slothful, feeling wrathful

It wasn't when the private attorney substituted in.

It wasn't when the private attorney went on about the Mercedes that Santa just brought.

It wasn't even when the private attorney asked me to agree with my now-former client's description of my sloth and indifference.

No, I think it was when the private attorney asked me for legal advice...

WA: a certain ratio

From the front page of the Daily O:

Budget could aid public defenders

Thurston County’s cash-strapped public defenders would receive more money under a budget plan proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The governor’s proposed supplemental budget includes $27 million for the state Office of Public Defense, which predicts that $478,000 of it would go to Thurston County.

The county’s District Court has the worst defense-lawyer-to-new-case ratio in the state — with one District Court defender handling 115 new cases a month, compared with the maximum of 25 recommended by state guidelines...

December 28, 2005

Learning curve

Wow, for such a fledgling public defender, Woman of the Law sure is figuring things out fast:

I guess my biggest observation about it right now is that I'm shocked how much it looks like my job is just to shovel shit as quickly as it gets dumped on me...

Let's see. It's like being Bambi, trying to get up on wobbly legs, and then trying to walk - unsuccessfully sometimes, wobbling, getting a few scrapes and bruises along the way. And then having your mother shot in front of you. (Just kidding. Ok, that's not funny. Yes, I am going to hell).

Much more insight along these lines at "On being an attorney: how being a new PD is like being a Disney cartoon character or a drunk college kid"

December 27, 2005

CA: role model

Defender Lawrence Never Lost His Passsion

Not many public defenders get sued by their clients, especially clients who are acquitted of murder.

It happened to Michael Lawrence, but he shrugs it off with an ease gained by 33 years of work in Monterey County's criminal justice system.

Friday mark(ed) the last day for Lawrence, 65, as the county's public defender. Since 1979, he has been the county's third public defender and, in the process, he became the longest-tenured public defender in state history...

Product safety warning

Fluids associated with feline hairballs may cause catastrophic and fatal computer monitor damage - may require replacement by new flat-screen monitor with non-cat-warming surface.

December 26, 2005

WA: novel bank robbery theory

From the Olympian:

A bank by any other name...
- Judge reduces term for Heritage robber on a technicality

A legal technicality saved a bank robber from a four-year prison term Thursday when a judge ruled that prosecutors hadn’t proven that Heritage Bank is a "financial institution." Judge Paula Casey overruled the jury, which found Scott M. Liden guilty of first-degree robbery during a trial earlier this month...

The ruling outraged the prosecutor, who openly criticized the judge and accused her of "letting a bank robber out in the community."

"I think this is a poor result in this case," Casey said to the courtroom. "There’s no question Mr. Liden robbed a bank. But the state has been put on notice that it needs to show some legal status to prove it’s (the bank) a financial institution. You’ve heard my frustration with the circumstances as well," she said...

Liden’s attorney, Sharonda Amamilo, argued that the law made the "financial institution" definition an element of the crime, which meant it needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She asked the court to overrule the verdict because prosecutors had not provided any witnesses, such as a bank manager or state official, to testify that Heritage Bank fits the legal definition...

Heritage was founded in 1927 and has its headquarters in Olympia. It’s licensed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, according to the company’s Web site...

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Wheeler said he was stunned by the ruling... "This would be calling the jury irrational to say the finding they made that this occurred in a financial institution didn’t happen," Wheeler said... "I’ve talked to other attorneys, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and none of them think this is an issue."

December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.

Deliver the oppressed. Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen. Show yourself to the needy. Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry. Lift up the weak. Take off the prisoners' chains.

May every nation come to know that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child, that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.

- Clement of Rome (1st century AD)

December 23, 2005

And now for something lighthearted

The latest from the preternaturally patient Gentle Eleos: "In Which Being a Public Defender Has Its Moments".

And have you checked out Public Defender Wear?

Finally, a new blog debuts, Thoughts on Justice, from a fellow Idahoan, currently a prosecutor, formerly a p.d. Yes, that happens.

NC: chief p.d. under harassment cloud

Durham Public Defender Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Durham's lead public defender is temporarily off the job, suspended with pay after an assistant public defender accused him of inappropriate conduct.

In an affidavit filed in Durham County Superior Court Wednesday, Assistant Public Defender Danielle Bruno alleges that Robert Brown Jr. used his authority as public defender to make sexual advances toward her.

In one case, Bruno claims Brown, after asking her to share something personal about herself, told him "in graphic details about his anatomy and a personal experience." She also accused him of asking for personal details about her marriage and her life...

This is not the first time that Brown, who was appointed legal defender in 1991, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. In 1996, he pleaded no contest to soliciting sex from a client.

Hmmm, I remember having my doubts about this guy.
(have to scroll down if you click)

ID: the children were poisoned

The Twin Falls Times-News article about the murders is here.

The newspaper article links to a PDF file containing the criminal complaint against Jim Junior Nice, the affidavit in support of complaint, the notice of hearing setting Nice's preliminary hearing for January 4, 2006, and arraignment minutes.

In a separate news story, the Times-News reports that with the deaths of the three children, there now have been six homicides in Twin Falls in 2005. The other victims' names are Jesse J. Naranjo, 33; Brent D. Lillevold, 50; and Victor B. Capado, 15. Eternal rest grant unto them.


Their names have been disclosed:

Raquel Anna, age 2
Justin, age 6
Spencer, age 6

My son is 6.

I saw the TV coverage of their father's initial appearance. I recognized the courtroom, Judge Stoker, the back of Grant Loebs' head at counsel table.

The thing I dreaded every night for six years came to pass nearly a year to the day after I left Twin Falls. I'd watch the local news and go to bed with a feeling of foreboding, knowing that as long as I was chief public defender, one morning I would be called on to defend a client who it would be my duty to defend, and who I just could not. No amount of death penalty CLE's and anti-depressants would make a difference: I wouldn't be able to bear the autopsy photos or the nightmares, I couldn't sit in the holding cell commiserating with the accused, I couldn't be sure I wouldn't let the client down. G d help me, I couldn't be sure I'd want the client's life to be spared - not the only reason, but a significant reason I had to move on.

My grief goes out to the children's mother and grandparents and to the first responders. My heartfelt regards go out to Grant the prosecutor and to Marilyn my successor for the hard work ahead. I am sorry, but at the moment I can't manage any compassion for Jim Junior Nice.

December 22, 2005

Songs on the death of children

In this weather, in this storm,
I would never have sent the children out;
Someone took them out,
I could have no say in it.

In this weather, in this turmoil,
I would never have let the children go out;
I would have been afraid they might be hurt,
Now these are idle thoughts.

In this weather, in this horror,
I would never have let the children go out,
I was worried they might die the next day,
That is now not a thing to worry about.

In this weather, in this storm,
I would never have send the children out;
Someone took them out,
I could have no say in it.

In this weather, in this turmoil, in this storm,
They rest as if in their mother's house,
Not frightened by any storm,
Protected by the hand of God.

Rückert, "Im diesen Wetter" from the Kindertotenlieder (1834)

Our hearts built to spill

Christmas Twin Falls, Idaho
is her oldest memory

She was only two
it was the first time she felt blue

December 21, 2005

ID: horrible

Three Children Murdered in Twin Falls; Police Have Suspect in Custody

News conference video here.

This hits much too close to home, and has put tears in my eyes. If you have children, or a niece or a nephew, give them some affection and reassurance tonight.

December 20, 2005

WA: gimme back my sentencing discretion

From the Vancouver USA Columbian -

Judges eye more say over penalties:

The state's Superior Court judges want back some of the discretion they had to impose stiff sentences for violent crimes before the U.S. Supreme Court took it away from them two years ago.

They want the 2006 Legislature to make Washington's mandatory sentencing guidelines nonbinding, and they seek authority to double the maximum sentence the guidelines allow in "exceptional" cases. Without that discretion, they say, they are being forced to mete out sentences far too lenient for some heinous crimes...

Thanks for the link to "The echoes of Blakely where it all began" from Sentencing Law and Policy, my authoritative Ohio-based source for Washington State legal analysis.

December 19, 2005

MT: therapeutic community with concertina wire

In Montana,

...the state Department of Corrections is hoping to become a big player in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. Not everyone is convinced that is a good thing, but department Director Bill Slaughter sees it as something that needs to be done. The state is asking private contractors to submit proposals by Jan. 10 to build a lockdown meth treatment center, with 80 beds for men and 40 for women.

A dissenting view:

(Treatment provider Mona) Sumner said the basis for any successful treatment is establishing trust between counselors and clients. In a prison program, it is difficult to build trust because the patients will be afraid that information they divulge will be used against them, she said.

"A punitive setting doesn't promote a therapeutic setting," Sumner said. "They think that by hiring someone who's a licensed addictions counselor, that somehow makes a program."

And a cryptic response:

"We're 72 percent successful," (Slaughter) said. "I'm sorry, Mona. We ought to have a parade."

WA: gifts from the big house

From the TNT:
Santa’s unlikely helpers

The men bear little resemblance to Santa’s elves. Their workshop is just a quick jaunt across the Puget Sound, not oceans away at the North Pole. But children all over the South Sound won’t be able to tell the difference when they unwrap their presents.

About three dozen inmates at the McNeil Island Corrections Center are busy much of the year crafting gifts for those in need. The program donates around 1,800 presents a year, most during the Christmas season. The gifts include race cars, puzzles, crayon holders and jewelry boxes. Many go to children who otherwise wouldn’t get anything...

Generosity and holiday spirit from, you know, "those people."

December 18, 2005

ID: stretched thin? tough!

In Sandpoint, Idaho, two contract public defenders warn the judge that they're a little overstretched by getting assigned to two murder co-defendants, and the prosecutor says they should have thought of that when they bid on the contract. Helpful, that:

Murder suspects to be tried together - Defense argued combining cases would be prejudicial

Court-appointed attorneys for Thurlow and Lewers objected to joining the two matters.

"I agree with judicial economy, but due process and trial rights would be inhibited," said Linda Payne, Thurlow's defense counsel...

Both attorneys said the terms of their respective public defender contracts have them spread thin and pointed out Robinson has additional counsel in Deputy Prosecutor Louis Marshall. "That's simply to level the playing field," Payne said.

(Prosecutor Phil) Robinson objected to the Woods' request, arguing both had entered into contracts and should have realized they could wind up with a murder case. Robinson also downplayed the complexity of the cases.

So we'll be putting you on the witness list for the post-conviction proceedings then, Mr. Robinson?


The A&C odometer rolled over shortly after 6:00 pm Pacific tonight with a visitor from Lansing, MI. Who would've thunk it?

December 17, 2005

WA: more $ for Grant Co. p.d.s

Somewhat old news, but in the spirit of the holiday, Grant County public defenders receive a $400,000 boost:

Rep. Bill Hinkle sponsored legislation last session to provide nearly $400,000 to Grant County's public defender system for use in dependency and juvenile offender cases. "Grant County was identified as one of the counties absolutely overloaded with these types of cases," Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, stated in a Dec. 13 press release. "This legislation created programs with state money to help the overburdened public defenders..."

Love power

Here's Public Defense with a romantic comedy about a passion more powerful than jailhouse bars.

Reminds me a bit of a lawyer I used to work with, now in private practice and now married, of whom was said (professionally and personally), "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."

December 15, 2005

Pobres defensores

Doesn't it just make your p.d. spirit cranky to hear another insult from a putative progressive - an ACLU board member, say, or another "open minded, left leaning, otherwise intelligent, public spirited, trained lawyer"?

It sure rankles David Feige of Indefensible:

In other words, the big problem with failing to abide by a treaty our government has signed (the Vienna Convention) is that foreign nationals wind up having to be represented by PD's? I find this insinuation particularly galling given that Levitt is writing in the context of the prosecution of Mexican nationals--does he have any idea just how good the Federal Defender programs in San Diego or Southern Arizona (which handle a highly disproportionate number of those cases) are?

No, I don't think he does, nor do I think he bothered to look any further beyond the public defender stereotype.

A couple of years back, I had a professional experience with the Vienna Convention and the Mexican government when I was appointed to represent a Mexican citizen accused of murder. Officials from the Mexican consulate in Salt Lake took an active interest in my client's case, as part of their government's increased emphasis on "provid(ing) consular assistance to Mexican nationals abroad, particularly to individuals sentenced to death." I appreciated the assistance and the opportunity to work with Mexican diplomats and lawyers, and together I think we eventually got as good an outcome for my client as could be, considering the facts of the case.

However, even they harbored some of that anti-p.d. skepticism, I think. At least I inferred as much the day when I got a call from one of my less-liked private bar colleagues. Seems that the Mexican consul called to find out how much he'd charge them to take the case off my hands. ¡Ay, qué lástima!

CA: you can take the boy out of BigLaw

A "litigation boutique" lawyer gets to play DA in The City, or, how some prosecutors talk about us when they think no one's listening:

The jury was waiting outside to be seated. I knew all their names. I had my peremptories ready. My witnesses were prepped. My opening statement was polished. I had just won a tentative ruling on a major evidentiary issue admitting the defendant's prior felony conviction for armed robbery. I was going to skewer him on the stand.


The Public Defender pulled the "I'm pregnant, and I can't proceed." IN THE MIDDLE OF JURY SELECTION. Her doctor said that this was supposed to be her last trial--there was no medical emergency preventing her from going forward. She's just chicken. Chic-KEN!

This BigLaw boy isn't fit to shine Jeff Adachi's shoes, yet he's quite full of himself. Scroll around his site, and then click through to his firm bio, which states that he has served on the boards of directors of the ACLU of Northern California and the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. Yeah, he's a real prince. Or maybe another one-syllable word that starts with "pr-".

(I haven't got the hang of LiveJournal netiquette, I suppose. If I (or anyone) can find an offensive and public post through Google, Technorati, or IceRocket, is it supposed to be off-limits because it's on LiveJournal?)

Update 12/17/05: In a blow for shame-based sanctions, the temporary prosecutor has taken down all his offensive public posts and is switching his journal to members-only, but not before he picked up a raft of new readers in the San Francisco p.d.'s office. I suspect that instant karma's gonna get you, Mr. Kuo.

Accursed precursors

His home state's #2 in something, but Kemplog isn't exactly proud:

Not good. The Pal Item reports today on Indiana's place in the US Methamphetamine manufacturing ranking. We are the number 2 state, behind Missouri, in discovered meth labs.

My guess? The main ingredient, anhydrous ammonia, is plentiful in farming states like Indiana, so, since we can make it here, we do.

He links to the news article, and features this comic from Unfit:

WA: a criminal defense resource

Among the several good things that the Washington Defender Association provides for public defenders and others are these Misdemeanor Case Law Updates.

Felony lawyers like them, too!

The updates are maintained by Magda Baker, Misdemeanor Assistance Attorney at WDA. Thank you, Ms. Baker.

December 14, 2005

IL: it was a day like any other

How would you like to be the reporter on this courthouse beat? This article is unusually mundane as far as crime news goes. Nothing gory or exciting happens. Instead, we're plopped down in a routine-sounding arraignment docket:

A talkative defendant required the intervention of Sheriff Tim Crippes during the Dec. 12 criminal and traffic call in Edgar County Circuit Court.

Phillip A. Scott, 60, was in custody and he started talking as soon as his name was called.

“Yes sir,” said Scott, responding to his name from Judge David W. Lewis. “God bless you and this court and the state’s attorneys." Lewis instructed Scott not to speak unless responding to a direct questions...

Colley W. Thomas, 25, was in custody and charged with a Class 3 felony of aggravated battery alleging great bodily harm. According to the charging document, Thomas struck another man in the head with a baseball bat... Asked if he intended to hire counsel, Thomas replied, “Yes, if I can get out.” However, Thomas asked for the appointment of a public defender after the court ordered a $15,000 bond with 10 percent to apply...

Roger Dale Baugh Jr., 22, failed to meet a Dec. 10 deadline for making a $200 payment toward fines and costs. “I didn’t have the money,” said Baugh, intimating that he would still make the payment. “Mr. Baugh, you tell me that you are going to do things and you don’t,” responded Lewis. “I don’t have any reason to believe you. You haven’t made a good faith effort.” Lewis ruled that Baugh was in contempt of court and continued the matter for a sanction hearing...

Adam McCoy, 32, appeared to ask the court to quash a warrant that was issued when he missed a prior court date. McCoy said he had mechanical problems on the way to court and was unsuccessful in attempts to reach both his attorney and the state’s attorney to advise them of the situation. He presented a receipt from a towing service as proof of the break down. Lewis accepted the proof and quashed the warrant.

Arrest warrants for missing court were issued for Joseph L. Budd, 18, and Roy A. Smitley, 34.

The article does give a decent slice-of-life sense of an un-extraordinary day in court. Perhaps it could be instructional for aspiring d.a.'s and p.d.'s. Perhaps one of them could explain why you'd want to cut off a defendant who's saying, "God bless you and this court and the state’s attorneys." That seems extraordinary.

Good cheer

As I met with one of my clients at the jail today, I slid his discovery through the pass-through under the plexiglass between us, and waited while he read through the many pages.

Police here are issued digital cameras and take lots of snapshots. When my client got to the photos of himself and his co-defendant in the process of being cuffed and stuffed, he laughed and laughed and laughed. He wanted reprints.

It really was an unexpected and uplifting sound there in attorney visiting. Maybe it was a comment on the evidence, but this made my afternoon.

ID: "BSU prof helps right a wrong"

You know about the man who was cleared by DNA testing after 24 years in prison. Fairly cool to find that the exoneration had an Idaho contribution:

Boise State’s Hampikian Plays Key Role in Freeing Man Wrongfully Sent to Prison for 24 Years

Thanks to New West Network for the hometown link.

December 13, 2005

ID: fat, so?

As a criminal defense guy and a person of size, this takes the cake:

Obese Man Loses Appeal in Assault Case

An appeals court has upheld the aggravated assault conviction of a 610-pound man who said the victim's injuries were at least partly the result of his weight, rather than an intent to cause harm.

The case is State of Idaho v. Patrick Macias, Idaho Court of Appeals, 12/07/2005 (PDF file)

Somehow Macias is approximately 500 pounds when weighed by the Idaho Court of Appeals, and 610 pounds when weighed by the Associated Press.

WA: олимпия мафия

From the Olympian:

Rape suspect says he's tied to mob and murder

...[A] judge set bail Monday at $1 million for the suspect, Jamey V. Ball. Ball, a 33-year-old convicted sex offender, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of third-degree child rape and unlawful drug delivery to a minor. He was being held on suspicion of 13 counts of child rape involving four 14-year-old girls...

Ball... surprised law enforcement officers by claiming to be responsible for four murders in Pierce County and to have connections to the Russian mob...

The first rule of mafiya is, you do not talk about mafiya.

Much ado about something

How long has it been since I posted about devil meth? If you google "moral consequences Methamphetamine" as a recent visitor did, this silly blog comes up # 4.

At # 1, from the American Enterprise Institute, Much Ado about Meth?, by Sally Satel, M.D.:

Now I enjoy a good moral panic as much as the next person, but I think methamphetamine deserves its dreadful reputation...

The prickly journalists are probably fed up with the drug war. For the policymakers, though, part of the answer may be demographics. A social problem that fails to afflict major Northeast cities is not as attention-grabbing. Also, poor rural whites, one of the major subgroups afflicted, wield weak political leverage...

... [N]ational statistics can mislead... [I]n some states meth is big. For example, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, meth accounted for as many as 20 to 40 percent of all treatment admissions in 2003, easily surpassing alcohol admissions, the next biggest category...

The fact is that meth is a devastating drug for those who abuse it, casting a vast halo of destruction across communities. To say so is not crying meth.

December 12, 2005

No me dump truck I

What're you looking at me for? I'm not a dump truck! So we folded right on the brink of trial, but hey, we got a deal to dismiss three out of the four felonies. And two gross misdemeanors. Yes, with prejudice. No, no problem.

WA: prosecutors bailing out

Plenty of job openings up in Mount Vernon, if you could work for this guy:

Prosecutor’s Office losing many lawyers
- Some point to hefty workloads, interoffice tension as factors

As caseloads have increased in the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office over the past three years, so has the departure of staff attorneys. Much of the blame is directed at Prosecutor Tom Seguine, who took office in January 2003 with an ambitious agenda that saw about a 50 percent increase in criminal filings that year.

The recent wave of resignations brings the total office turnover for the past three years to 12 lawyers — nine deputy prosecutors and three civil attorneys...

Seguine’s critics say his policies on charging and plea bargains have created the difficult work environment. Dennis Scott, a lawyer with 30 years of experience as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer (said), “If you have a prosecutor’s office that refuses to see the benefit of resolving cases equitably, then you have crushing caseloads... Morale is so bad that people have difficulty finding the time to be civil to each other. My experience was that there was no collegiality, which is necessary to sounding out good legal strategy and making reasoned decisions.”

Defense lawyers say deputy prosecutors tell them they want defendants to plead as charged, leaving little room for negotiation. “From a defendant’s standpoint, what exactly would be the benefit of pleading guilty when you can take your chances and end up with the same result at trial?” said Scott, who previously worked for the Skagit County Public Defender.

Seguine’s plea bargaining policy has made a critic out of a former supporter from his own office. Former deputy prosecutor Ron Costeck said Seguine’s philosophy got in the way of his stated goals. “The rigid approach to some of the plea bargaining is not victim-friendly or victim-oriented,” Costeck said. “That neither caters to the community nor to the victims.”

Surmising from the photo accompanying the story, once they're dog-tired from handling the 50 percent increase in criminal filings (curiously enough, not tied to anything approaching a 50 percent increase in local crime), it looks like deputies also are being put to work doing construction on the elected prosecutor's house. I'm probably wrong about that detail, though.

December 11, 2005

Moral lawyer

A New Jersey reader arrived here today from the Google query, "are lawyers amoral?" That's good, because going back to the same page pointed me to an essay by one of my favorite answerers of this question and that other perennial, "how can you defend someone who's guilty?"

Here's Professor Joseph Allegretti with, The Lawyer As A Professional - Christ and the Code: the Dilemna of the Christian Attorney

Once there was a first-year (law) student who had to deal with a pompous and overbearing professor. One day she was called upon, and after the usual amount of pressure and pain, she succeeded in stating the holding of the case. As she finished she blurted out, "But it's just not right!" To which the professor responded cooly, "Listen, if you want to study what's right, you should have gone to divinity school..."

Several questions come to mind. Does it make sense to talk of a lawyer's vocation? In what ways can a lawyer's work be a vehicle of service to God and neighbor? More concretely, how would viewing law as a vocation affect the attorney's relationships to clients, courts, and adversaries?...

My guess is that such a model will lead to some surprising results. At times we may find ourselves less committed to the single - minded pursuit of our client's interests, while at times we may find ourselves more deeply committed to the client than ever before. For example, maybe the hard question is not "How can an attorney defend the guilty?" Maybe the hard question is "Given the example of Jesus, why don't we do it more often?"

Thanks, Professor. Thanks, Google.

Bonus link: then there's this joke about amoral lawyers -
"Two public defenders were walking down the road..."

Update: a murder trial and a Sunday School lesson

WA: banished from courtroom 208

From The Olympian:

Judge refuses to sit on prosecutor’s cases -
Hicks, Soukup had disagreements in past court cases

For the second time in six months, a Thurston County judge refuses to hear any cases filed by one of the county’s deputy prosecutors... Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks is maintaining his ban against Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dave Soukup... The judge abruptly recused himself from any of the attorney’s cases, saying his decision was because of “prior actions” for which he had sanctioned the prosecutor... The judge’s decision means special arrangements have to be made for another judge to hear Soukup’s cases. It’s a small inconvenience for a court system already short on space and judges, and a subject of courthouse gossip...

Hicks said his decision relates, in part, to a case earlier this year that Soukup handled involving a woman accused of forgery. Soukup had filed a declaration accusing the defense attorney of recording interviews with two of the state’s witnesses without their consent, which is illegal in Washington. Soukup based his accusation on information that one of the witnesses relayed to him but he did not verify it independently, court documents say. The defense attorney, Bruce Finlay of Shelton, produced interview transcripts and statements showing the contrary. The judge was asked to rule on the matter.

In January, Hicks sanctioned Soukup, finding that the allegations were false and pursued without a “scintilla of investigation.” He noted that the accusations needlessly sullied the defense attorney’s image. “Such an unverified allegation that another attorney engages in unlawful activity is an abuse of the judicial system and hurts us all,” the judge wrote in his findings...

Submitted without comment (for reasons that are not mysterious - I have to work in that courthouse, you know)

December 10, 2005

Fate had other plans

When I left the chief p.d. job in Idaho last year, I breathed a sigh that I wouldn't be representing another murder defendant for a long, long time.

Time's up.

My new client was sentenced last spring, after which he filed a bar grievance against his counsel. Officially my representation of him is restricted to assisting with a restitution hearing. We'll see.

ID: a shame about Ray

Back in the Magic Valley, criminal defense lawyer Ray Peña's troubles are multiplying:

State Bar considers complaint against Rupert attorney

The Idaho State Bar is considering disciplinary action against Rupert attorney Raymundo G. Pena,who has been charged with four felony counts of bartering legal services for sex. Jury trial was originally scheduled to begin Tuesday but has been postponed. No new trial date has been set.

The Bar proceedings stem from a complaint filed by one of the alleged victims,a former client who complained to authorities that Pena offered to reduce her legal fees in exchange for sex. According to court records,the woman has filed a Client Assistance Claim with the Bar...

December 08, 2005

TBogg on p.d.

"Um. No thanks. I'll take my chances with the public defender."

I'll let this one slide - it's more about mocking Powerline than putting down my people.

CA: no more monkey

You know me, always on the lookout for positive, upbeat stories about convicted felons, and from the county of my birth no less:

Ex-cons get chance to turn it around with clean record

For much of his young life Amani Bullock had been straddling the line. Then he crossed over it. Landed in jail at 19. Did his time, returned to his home in Marin City. Sought God. Turned his life around.

But he still had a problem stemming from the 1990 bust for stealing to get the drugs and booze he needed for the life he was trapped in. A criminal record, a monkey on his back that kept him from getting to where he wanted to go: helping kids, sharing his hard-earned spotlight of redemption, letting them know about the ephemeral craziness of drug highs, showing them that a state of grace is there for the taking.

Now, because of a new program of the Marin County Public Defender's Office, Bullock's monkey is history, his record has vanished. So, since July, have the criminal records of more than 99 others in Marin, said Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Berg.

What this means, she said, is that those people can now seek jobs, or promotions or more sensitive positions - like working with children, as in Bullock's case - because their past is no longer an intractable barrier to an improved life...

"Most of the 100 or so coming through have had employment but want a better job," she said. "They already have come a long way and now they want" something they cannot get with a record.

For example, she said, many who have fought and won a battle with drugs and alcohol "want to be (drug and alcohol abuse) counselors but do not want to be turned down from the job just because of a record."

When Berg talks of the program her voice is animated, her commitment infectious. "I love it," she said. "Most of the time we are delivering good news to people who deserve it, who should get a second chance."

I'm a big fan of just about any opportunity for ex-cons to turn it around. Yay, Elizabeth Berg! Good for our colleagues in Marvellous Marin! I hope they get lots of applications from ex-cons and aspiring p.d.'s alike.

Though when they said that the client's monkey is history, I hope that they didn't mean, you know, a real monkey.

WA: violate plea deal, consequences follow

The last time I posted about this mess up in Sno. Co., a commenter asked, "What am I missing? How is there no double jeopardy here?" Fair question.

Twist in slaying case brings admitted killer back to court

Nearly four years ago, Daniel Larson told a judge and jury how he used a necktie to strangle Anastasia King while her husband held her down...

For that testimony, Snohomish County prosecutors reduced Larson's charge to second-degree murder in the 2000 death of King, a mail-order bride from Kyrgyzstan. And it helped convict her husband, Indle King Jr., of first-degree murder.

But Larson, 25, is back in Snohomish County Superior Court, scheduled to be arraigned today on a first-degree murder charge for the crime. Prosecutors filed the new charge after the courts ruled Larson violated the terms of his plea agreement by petitioning to withdraw his original plea.

Neither side has seen a case like Larson's, and they agree trying a man for a crime he's been convicted of will be tricky. Typically, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime, but Larson waived that right in his plea agreement, prosecutors say.

"Tricky," as in, something bad and weird that happens when you persist against your p.d.'s advice. Technically, I suppose that previously pleading guilty and not actually going through his own trial, and then trying to withdraw the plea, might account for the tricky pickle in which Larson finds himself, but as regular readers know, I'm no expert.

ID: threaten a dog, go to jail

If I still lived in Twin, I would have a hard time explaining it to my shepherd-heeler mix if I defended the accused in this case:

Man faces felony for allegedly threatening police dog

A 38-year-old Twin Falls man, bitten by a police dog when he was arrested, faces a felony charge of intimidating a witness for allegedly threatening to kill the animal... Philip Allen Warren made the threat to Twin Falls County Sheriff's Deputy Morgan Case, the handler of Croix, a 4-year-old German shepherd... Warren made the threat after being taken to the Magic Valley Regional Medical Center for treatment of a dog bite...

According to Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs, ...Idaho law protects potential witnesses against retaliatory threats against property, including pets or family. "He made a threat against the policeman to kill his dog," Loebs said.

My cat on the other hand would start a legal defense fund.

December 07, 2005

AK: verdict

Steve of Alaskablawg got a heartbreaking guilty verdict in his Kotzebue murder trial, and now is going to take some time to be with his kids before starting his next trial by ordeal.

Stand up, readers, our colleague is passing.

December 06, 2005

WA: help is on the way

Top story in the Olympian:

Public defenders office gets crucial dose of aid
- Money will help ease caseloads

Thurston County's misdemeanor public defense team will get nearly half a million dollars to help the office avoid what some critics said was an impending malpractice lawsuit.

The state Office of Public Defense will offer the county's public defense office between $400,000 and $450,000, enough to hire at least two attorneys and a paralegal...

December 04, 2005

CLE, Koolhaas, and Winco, oh my!

On Friday, a fine day out to the Jet City! We woke to genuine snow here on the South Sound, then I made it up to Seattle for a WACDL CLE.

Not too bad, but a few of the sessions illustrated the Trial Lawyer's Paradox: being able to sway a jury doesn't automatically make you an effective or even interesting lecturer. The better presentations mixed visuals, anecdotes, and stats, like this one from the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel: in 2002, Pierce County (Tacoma) had the highest per capita consumption of lithium batteries in the world - due to a local abundance either of photographers or meth labs.

The best presentation was pushed to the last. I listened to a real public defender hero, Robert Schiffner of Moses Lake, Grant County, a small-town lawyer with enough backbone to take a leading role in exposing the public defense scandal in his own county.

(I also saw another great p.d. who passed on me once before, but we're cool now. The lesson I learned from that experience was, if you want to shine with a potential employer, it's better not to spend the night before the job interview getting stuck in the snow in the Cascades and spending a few hours trying to dig out, then hitchhiking to the top of the pass and sleeping about five hours there, then riding back to the scene in the morning in the first-available tow truck, extracting your vehicle, and hauling ass to your interview town. Even if you arrive with minutes to spare, you don't exactly arrive fresh or impressive.)

Another good thing about the CLE was this cool house down the street, where Seattle stores most of its library books and some of its pretensions of being a "world-class" city. I spent the lunch hour there navigating the place, being impressed and perplexed in turn, and I guess I'll have to check out S M L XL to learn whether the cheap-ass aspect of much of the $165 million building resulted from Koolhaas' post-modern assault on the privileging of quality materials and workmanship, or just from a lack of funds after the dot-com bust.

Then from the high-brow delights of downtown Seattle to south King County and Winco! Every southern Idaho expatriate in the Puget Sound needs to make a pilgrimage here! Friday night in the Winco in Kent combined highlights of Idaho and Western Washington: Falls Brand meats, bulk food bins and white guys with garments visible under their shirts sharing the polyglot camaraderie of working-class Seattle. I loved it.

I know, I know, it's not a union shop, but it's closer in spirit and practice to Costco than to Walmart. Thinking of Winco's ESOP eases my mind as I feast on made-in-Idaho Basque chorizos and reflect on my continuing education, legal and otherwise.

December 01, 2005

WA: nice present

And now, some good news for future p.d.'s and others:

UW law school gets $33.3 million gift from Gates Foundation

Scholarships will go to students planning public-service careers

But perhaps not such great news for current UW law students planning public-service careers.

GA: chief p.d. resigns under fire

Arthur English has resigned from his post as Chief Public Defender for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, near Atlanta.

"The best thing for me and the public defender system as a whole is to step back out of the limelight," said English... "This whole year has been a nightmare for me personally."

A kind public defender in the Flint Judicial Circuit, Henry County, has taken him in.